Jury Awards $7.2 Million To Peace Officer For Alleged Racial Discrimination

CATEGORY: Client Update for Public Agencies, Fire Watch, Law Enforcement Briefing Room, Public Education Matters
CLIENT TYPE: Public Education, Public Employers, Public Safety
DATE: Apr 05, 2024

A former officer sued his employer, claiming he was illegally fired because he is black.  The officer alleged that his race was a “substantial motivating reason” for his termination.

After nearly five years of litigation, a jury voted unanimously in favor of the officer after three hours of deliberation.  The jury awarded the officer $7.2 million in damages, including $5.2 million in economic damages and $2 million in noneconomic damages.

The officer had been recruited to the public safety agency because of his proven leadership abilities.  The officer had served almost three decades without any discipline at the officer’s former public safety agency.  His firing resulted from an internal affairs investigation initiated after a dispute between the officer and a subordinate regarding the subordinate’s handling of a case.  A manager outside of the public safety department hired an external investigator and oversaw the investigation.  The agency ultimately fired the officer for raising his voice and using profanity with a subordinate officer on one or more occasions.

The former officer criticized the investigation, alleging that the sustained findings against him were supported largely by the testimony of a subordinate who had a racial animus toward him.  The former officer alleged that the subordinate was routinely insubordinate.

The officer also alleged that the manager’s role in overseeing the investigation was contrary to the public safety department’s practice of using its Chief in that role.  The former officer alleged that terminating him for raising his voice and using profanity at insubordinate officers, while merely reprimanding a white subordinate who was found to have been dishonest, reflected racial bias.

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